Thursday, March 31. 2011
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I found this to be an excellent Reflection written by this OCA priest! Its tone is one of love, concern, objectivity, calmness, rationality, and common sense. It also suggests very good actions that would lead to greater communication, understanding, transparency, and accountability, taking into consideration the various vehicles of communication available to us in our day of advanced technology. I only wish this priest had signed his name, because he would be a great person for our Church leaders to seek out as to how to improve these situations.
#1 David Barrett on 2011-03-31 13:50
Yes, this is so much more balanced than the last reflection by the anonymous priest. I am the one who wrote the ascerbic reply and I was offended because things were implied by that priest that may or may not be true, and that could have done and probably did do damage to an already damaged situation. Because it was anonymous, I felt the priest was being hypocritical. If you are going to accuse your own Metropolitan of being unable to think for himself, like some kind of parody of Tolkien's story of the King of Rohan and Wormtongue, do so openly. If you are going to criticize him and judge him in such a milk-toasty, bland way, do it openly. What's he going to do, take away your livelihood? Maybe? Well, then if you are going to be anonymous, be strong. Don't be weak. I thought that other anonymous post by the priest made a mockery of the truth, because it was not clear enough for the reader to make any conclusions based in some kind of fact (it's so hard to know anything for certain right now), and I thought it was one-sided and biased. which I don't feel that priest presented.
Having said that, I am not a fan of this web site.
And having said that, I have to remain anonymous. I just do. Sorry.
Unless I could sign it "Rachel" because Rachel wept for her children, and I weep for the OCA.
(Editor's note: Rachel, one reflection was written by a monk who wished to remain anonymous, and this by a priest who wished to remain anonymous. They are two different people. And I have no problem, nor should you, with people who wish to remain anonymous for a whole host of valid reasons. Sometimes they fear their jobs will be lost; or their families hurt; or they just want people to focus on what they say, rather than bitch about who said it. Anyway, thanks for sharing, and especially since you are not a fan of the site. I don't make up the news - I just report it.)
#2 Rachel on 2011-03-31 15:08
Mark, I was not referring to the post by the monk. I was referring to the earlier reflection, by the "Anonymous priest of the OCA." I expect, but I"m not sure because a lot of people say things but nobody seems to say anything with provable facts that back up what they say, that the same priest of the OCA wrote both reflections. People will have to go back to read the first one.
#3 Anonymous on 2011-03-31 15:54
Great reflection; however, I think it could actually go further. It seems to me that another source of friction is not just the lack of communication, it's the entire structure vis a vis bishops and everyone else. The Holy Synod of the OCA seems to think that they need to make decisions without the Metropolitan Council. I have tried to think of even one instance where the Metropolitan Council could not/should not be involved and I quite frankly can't come up with any. I would genuinely like to hear from anyone that can make a persuasive argument as to what, exactly, must be the sole perogative of the Holy Synod. Also, keep in mind that the Metropolitan Council includes clergymen, so it is not a fair statment that all clerical matters or matters of theology must be handled by bishops. Certainly as St. Athanasius pointed out, you don't have to be a bishop to be a theologian.
I bring up this point because as I have observed the OCA for the past several years, there is a constant undertow by the hierarchy that they alone need to handle "certain" matters. For instance, the "investigation" of Archbishop Seraphim. Sorry, the bishops blew this, they didn't even begin an investigation for years after it was brought to their attention.
What about the firing of Fr. Garklavs? Why wasn't the Metropolitan Council brought into this discussion? What could have possibly possessed the Holy Synod into thinking that they should make a decision affecting the entire OCA without including at least some its priests, deacons, and lay people in the decision? What, the priests, deacons and lay people elected to help run the church are not qualified? Maybe it's the other way around. Sorry if that question stings but it seems to me that the OCA needs to start thinking in that direction.
It seems that every time the Holy Synod takes matters into their own hands all hell breaks loose. And when they have enough common sense to get out of the way, things actually work much better. Take the Diocese of the South and the Diocese of the West as just two examples. They both have very active lay boards and they are both solvent and growing. Look at the process for the election of a new bishop in Chicago. The process has worked well.
Not to open old wounds but look how the Bishop Nikolai matter was handled. It was grossly bungled by the Holy Synod. A simple employment agreement outlining the do's and don'ts would be a great place to start with the elevation of every new bishop, and had that been in place with Bishop Nikoai the shennanigans in Alaska could have ceased much earlier than they did. In the case of Bishop Nikolai it was a tragi-comedy watching the Holy Synod try to follow archaic, byzantine canons. Literally no common sense was applied with the ouster of Bishop Nikolai. Had their been a joint board of bishops and MC members (preferably those with a legal background) alot of the money wasted sending bishops to summon Bishop Nikolai could have been avoided.
I know that the Holy Synod and Metropolitan Council now hold periodic joint meetings but what's the point? After the meetings, it appears that the bishops just pack up their bags and couldn't care less what anyone had to say. And on top of that, they are still holding meetings without the Metropolitan Council. For example, I haven't heard one bishop talk about the new strategic plan that members of the church have been working on for well over the past year. Why? Because I don't believe any one of the bishops really cares. It's all about their diocese and everything else is just window dressing. The only time any of them seemed to have genuinely cared in the past few years was when their stipends were affected.
It might be radical but why not consider removing all finances from the bishops. "Pay for performance," isn't that the current expression for teachers? Again, maybe this is too radical but something has to be done to get the bishops of the OCA to learn that they can't do things by themselves, either in their own dioceses or as the Holy Synod. The people who pay their salaries are the same people that proclaim "Axios" at their elevations. Somehow there is an enormous disconnect.
When someone is hired as a senior executive of a company, they are almost always handed an employment contract. It spells out all of the expectations. Aren't bishops a form of senior executives? And as a senior executive of say, IBM, you are expected to work for the good of the whole company, not just your division. There is a board of directors that senior executives must answer to. Even in law firms and CPA firms there is something known as peer review, where your company's work is reviewed by outsiders. But in the Orthodox Church, it seems that once it gets to the level of bishops it's no one's business except theirs. I am not advocating making the OCA into IBM, but something has to give in terms of making the hierarchy responsible to the church for its actions. In this day and age, the old "pay, pray, and obey" system just doesn't cut it anymore.
#4 Anonymous on 2011-03-31 16:30
As to anonymity, I can understand the reasons for clergy wishing to remain so. Back in the 'day' when turmoil filled the Ruthenian Greek Catholic church in the US, many brave priests went public with their opposition to Rome's imposition of Latinizations. The newspapers of the various fraternal organizations of the day are filled with their writings. However, when push came to shove, many had to back down because they were mostly immigrants in a new country, they had families to support and they feared the consequences of the unknown. The most outspoken and courageous continued to speak out and ultimately left the Roman church and became Orthodox. Not everyone has the inner ability and strength to go public, there are many reasons not to do do and I was always taught not to judge those who choose to remain anonymous with respect to Church matters like these. Listen to their words, if they resonate within you consider them, if not, seek your counsel elsewhere.
#5 bez mena on 2011-04-01 06:19
It's a very interesting idea to have some sort of "employment agreement" in place. I have long thought that bishops were sometimes ill-suited for positions of leadership because within the church their position requires so many management skills, but as monks, those skills are not needed, nor even trained for, at all, ever. Bishops, just in mere survival skills, should be encouraged to take management courses so they can get by in a world where much is demanded. I feel sorry for bishops, at times. Not because of who they are, but rather because what we demand of them, and how it is completely different from what they were trained for.
(Editor's note: Amen to that. They are deserving of our compassion. But you would be surprised at how many times the above as been suggested; along with public speaking training and communication skills. And how many times it has been summarily dismissed. Sadly.)
#6 Sean O'Clare on 2011-04-01 12:55
I do hope it's not true, as this Reflection implies, that His Beatitude has given priests cause to reasonably fear that they will lose their livlihood if they criticize him publicly. Although I have no real facts, I do gather that there are priests who have (1) openly criticized ++Jonah and (2) not lost their job.
This reflection suggests that the current problems could have been avoided if the bishops communicated more fully with the faithful and with each other. To me it looks as if our bishops understand each other just fine; they just strongly disagree about how some things should be handled.
#7 Mark on 2011-04-01 14:28
Very sadly, Mark, very sadly indeed.
#8 Sean O'Clare on 2011-04-01 16:36
We give men who are not tempered in the fires and tensions of marriage and family life crowns to wear and otherwise treat them as royalty, and then expect them to act in a "conciliar" manner. It's a set up for failure.
#9 John Heilman on 2011-04-01 23:32
Thanks for this perceptive observation.
It seem that somehow, somewhere, a “fork-in-the-road” is looming, if not is already upon us. And only two sound alternatives exist. Anything else will end in failure and implosion:
A) Bishops continue to be selected from the monastics.
This would mean that they (at least should) continue to be exemplars in liturgical and sacramental excellence, and be a living example of high-quality mystical contemplation - the via contemplativa (as in the beginning when the Messianic Essenes (in the Johannine Tradition) filled this role).
Please note: they are only exemplars, not monopolisers, without possessing the right to exercise any monopoly over serving any liturgy or sacrament (other than their own: namely Holy Orders).
All administrative functions - as spelt out by Paul in his passages on Charisms of the Spirit) are operated by non-Clergy without any interference or veto from clergy. These administrators would, as per “anonymous” in #3 be professionally trained in their respective spheres of competency and be subject to peer review and external peer-audit.
As “anonymous” in #3 has quite rightly pointed out: “In this day and age, the old "pay, pray, and obey" system just doesn't cut it anymore.” This elimination of their all-encompassing liturgical, sacramental and administrative monopoly will see to it that the old "pay, pray, and obey" syndrome is eliminated once and for all.
B) Bishops continue to exercise administrative functions and concomitantly, Monastics are stripped of the expectation that any of them could become Bishops.
This would release Monastics to fully-realise their vocation in being exemplars in liturgical and sacramental excellence, and being a living example of high-quality mystical contemplation.
Thus - “How to find a Bishop”:
First, “Laity” with recognised management-skills are groomed for the Priesthood, and are then Ordained. Then these Married Priests with these recognised management-skills are groomed for the Episcopate. As the final “pre-requisite” for Consecration they would be expected to spend at least two years in a monastery where the monks would imbue into them what constitutes liturgical and sacramental excellence, and what constitutes being a living example of high-quality mystical contemplation.
Then, during their Consecration Liturgy they are quite audibly asked:
“Are you going to subject all the administrative functions of your Episcopacy to external, non-Clergy peer review and external peer-audit?”
Only when they give an unqualified “By God’s grace, Yes!”, audible to all in the building, is the threefold “axios” given. Any failure to give such an unqualified “Yes” will mean that the threefold “axios” is not given and their Consecration does not go ahead.
Again to quote “anonymous” in #3 “In this day and age, the old "pay, pray, and obey" system just doesn't cut it anymore.” This imposition of non-Clerical peer-review and non-Clergy external-audit conditions upon them will go a long way towards reducing, but not eliminating the old "pay, pray, and obey" syndrome.
This just might break the current impasse, and take most of the heat out of this increasingly acrimonious situation as is found in the blogs in “Diocese of the West Weighs In on +Jonah Crisis”. It would also give them the compassion and respect that they so rightly deserve.
#10 John Battye on 2011-04-02 02:31
One reason why some things are kept solely for the bishops to decide is that the Holy Ghost always gives a bishop the charismatic gifts required to shepherd Jesus' flock. This is not to say the bishops always employ those spiritual gifts, or that they have kept themselvesin a state where they can employ them, merely that the charisma to be a bishop was given to them. On the other hand, as talented and as pious as the members of the Metropolitan Council might be, we do not know that the Holy Ghost gives the same or similar charisma to them. He might but we do not know.
(Editor's note: True, but a charism is not a magic amulet that guarantees anything, Matt. Nor is chrism a magic potion that guarantees the anointed salvation. We must cooperate with God, through synergy, to achieve the salvation he offers freely. As a result nothing in the church works magically - ever. )
John, I like some of your ideas, even if they won't ever fly. An idea that I think would work, is a bishop is taken from among the ranks of the celebate, and he performs his sacramental functions. However, then each diocese hires/appoints a priest, deacon of layman who will function as an administrator who is in charge of managerial and financial issues, and who cooperates with both the bishop and the council. Now that, I think, might well work. Of course increased openess is essential (but I also support a small episcopal discretionary fund which he can administer totally on his own, without question from anyone ... notice the word "small").
(Editor's note: Slippery, dangerous slope, Sean... slippery, dangerous, slope. Define "small"!)
#12 Sean O'Clare on 2011-04-04 12:19
The priest of our church is given a couple hundred a month, for a bishop it could be more. However, Mark, just because something 'could' lead to abuse, doesn't mean it will lead to abuse or that it's a bad idea. I can think of times a bishop might need to assist a priest, or a family, or a mission but would not want to make it a public issue. If we elect a bishop, then we must place a certain amount of trust in him. If we have no trust in him, then we shouldn't elect him.
(Editor's note: It is not a matter of trust, Sean. It is a matter of temptation. Let's not tempt anyone, as has been the case in the past. If someone needs help, the Church has many ways to help discreetely. That is why the MC has created a Charity Committee, for example, rather than just budgeting a "discretionary fund" as was the past practice. We can all sleep well at night as the good stewards Christ calls us to be, knowing the OCA's monies are being used compassionately, wisely, accountably, and when required, discreetely. This how public funds and donations to the Church should be disbursed - not "secretly", which just leads people into temptation, and alas, abuse.)
#13 Sean O'Clare on 2011-04-04 19:00
Re: "discretionary fund".
I agree completely with you. Every instance that I know of where something "small" of this nature is created, it like the proverbial mustard seed, grows into an almighty tree large enough for the birds of the air to nest in. Classic example - government taxes.
I would rather like to see a process where any expenditure that would come from this proposed "discretionary fund" becomes the subject of a completely transparent application-process. And be deemed a "loan" until retrospectively ratified by a full meeting of the Diocesan Council.
Having said that, Sean's idea of separation of powers is a valuable starting point. Those in the British Crown Dominions have a better example before them than do the Americans.
The shared Monarch - currently HM Queen Elizabeth II, on paper is a powerful autocrat in the George III mould (pace the US President). Yet as every Dominions citizen knows full well, her real capacity to act unilaterally and without reference to Parliament is nugatory. With respect to actual governance, she is purely a ceremonial figurehead and little more. With the Houses of Parliament the real centre of operable power.
Ideally Bishops should have this status - being a purely ceremonial figurehead *and no more*. In the 21st century British and not 4th century Byzantine mould. With the Diocesan Council (the Parliament) the real centre of power in the Diocese, and not the Bishop (the Monarch).
This purely ceremonial status (*and no more!*) would elevate the Bishop above the argy-bargy of finance and administration and allow them to legitimately allow themselves to be surrounded with the glory of their Office.
While the Queen does have a "discretionary fund" of sorts, it comes out of her personal income, and not that of the State. Yet even that is subject to Parliamentary scrutiny to ensure that the "national interest" is served. Ipso facto, if the Bishop does not have any independent source of income, he has no "discretionary fund". If he does have this independent income, its expenditure still subject to scrutiny by the Diocesan Council.
Even in the Irish tradition prior to first the Norman and then the English invasion, the High King of Tara had the Bards, Ovates and Druids as his "check and balance". The first millennium Irish Bishops following this model, had their "check and balance" in the person of their supervising Abbott.
Sean, I trust that this assists.
And thanks again Mark for your wise counsel.
(Editors' note: OK, anytime we get on Bards, Ovates and Druids, as checks and balances, we have strayed into Tara, and out of the Orthodox Church. Let's refocus.)
#14 John Battye on 2011-04-05 02:21
This discussion has certainly brightened my morning. Thank you for that. I do disagree with the notion of not giving an opportunity to temptation. Alas, we are given no temptation but what is common to mankind, but Christ has given us a way to avoid this temptation. But, anyway, I've truly enjoyed this little debate. Now, on to the next discussion, but there probably won't be the Queen, druids and Bards in that on.
#15 Sean O'Clare on 2011-04-06 09:38
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